Mar 14, 2015

Propane and Natural Gas Safety During Winter Storms

In New England we have had record snow fall. As winter is now all around us, let’s take a few moments to review safety tips for propane and natural gas safety during the winter months. Below are helpful hints that you can do to keep your business and family prepared and safe from winter storms.

  • Should your tank become covered in snow or ice, use a broom to clear it. Gas equipment covered in snow/ice if not removed can damage the equipment, break lines causing leaks and possible fires/explosions. Never clear the equipment with a shovel as it may damage the tank, lines or other gas equipment. If shoveling is required only shovel until the tank/pipe lines are visible then use the broom to clear the remaining snow away from the gas equipment. Frequent removal of snow from the propane tank and related gas equipment including vents, meters and regulators will make the job easier in addition to preventing the built-up of snow/ice damaging the gas equipment resulting in gas leaks developing.
  • All contractors involved in snow and ice removal at the company facility should be educated on company procedures. Prior to the winter season a walk around should be conducted so the sub-contractor can educate their employees on the location of propane tanks, piping, vents and gas regulators / meters. A meeting should be held and the company policies reviewed so the sub-contractor is properly educated. This would include a sub-contractor involved in removing ice and snow from roofs. The impact of snow or ice on gas equipment could cause significant damage resulting in gas leaks and possible explosions. A company representative should oversee the work making sure that the snow and ice removed is not placed in the areas where the gas equipment is located.
  • Make sure that you have an adequate propane supply. AmeriGas recommends that you call for a delivery service when your tank is at 30% full. This will avoid running empty in times of heavy snowfall when roads may be inaccessible for delivery.
  • Mark the location of your tank with a flag, pole, or stake. Make sure the marker is higher than the average snow cover depth and should be planted firmly and highly visible. These markers will help you avoid plowing into or shoveling snow on top of your tank.
  • Make sure your heating system and appliances are running efficiently. Have a qualified service technician inspect and service your appliances and propane system. This will ensure that your appliances are running as safely and efficiently as possible, thus conserving fuel and saving you money.
  • Propane and natural gas safety procedures should be part of the company emergency preparedness plan. All employees should be educated in the procedures developed by the company. Post a list with contact information for your propane retailer and emergency services such as the fire department for your local community. Included on this list should be instructions for how to turn off propane, electricity and water. Please note: if you do need to turn off your propane, please contact a service technician to inspect your propane system prior to turning it back on.
  • Prepare a disaster supply kit. This should include several days’ worth of water and canned foods along with a can opener, extra clothes, blankets flashlights and extra batteries. You should also have a battery-powered NOAA weather radio so that you can stay informed as weather conditions change.
  • Check your chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors, and propane tank for damage, blockage, or debris caused by snow and ice. Use a broom rather than a shovel to clear these areas frequently. This will help reduce the possibility of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning due to blocked or damaged chimneys, flues, and vents.
  • Install UL-listed propane gas detectors and CO detectors. These detectors provide you with an additional measure of security. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding installation, location, and maintenance.
  • After the storm passes and it is safe to do so, check the entire area for downed power lines, damaged gas lines, or damage to your propane tank. Immediately contact your local utility company or propane retailer if any of these hazards exist. Do not attempt repairs yourself.
  • Never use a stove for space heating and never use the outdoor propane appliances indoors or in enclosed areas, particularly in the event of a power outage. Proper ventilation is necessary for their safe operation, and CO fumes emitted can be lethal. Only use appliances indoors that are designed and approved for indoor use. Never store, place or use a propane cylinder indoors or in enclosed areas.
  • Exercise sound judgment. Stay calm, your composure should ensure you don’t take any unnecessary risks. Use radios, television, and telephones to stay informed and connected. Winter storms can last several days and roads may be inaccessible for fuel delivery. You can conserve fuel by keeping thermostats down to 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night. Be sure to close off any rooms that do not need to be heated, If any questions arise, contact your propane retailer or local fire department. Remember preparation, education, inspection, and communication is the keys to maintaining the company facility and your home free from incidents.
  • Flooding conditions can cause gas lines, tanks, to shift. In addition large amounts of water or snow on gas equipment can result in equipment damage. If you see possible damage always call your local utility company or propane retailer immediately. As noted above never try to make your own repairs.
  • Finally if anyone smells gas (rotten egg odor) they must follow the company procedures for notification. Evacuate the Facility/area and notify the appropriate emergency agencies including the gas supplier. “Do Not” turn on or off light switches, or do anything that could create an ignition source/spark.
  • Contact your gas supplier for educational materials they may have on propane/natural gas safety.

Safety is a priority at AWANE, and we continue to keep you up to date with tips on how to stay safe, especially in unexpected situations. Please contact us with questions and to learn more about our nationally recognized Workers Compensation program, the AICC.